A Blog | Anne Calcagno

Back to Permissions

Were I asked, I would tell any aspiring writer: “Never use song lyrics in your fiction.”   This is a real pity as it means populating literature with characters who will never listen to, nor replay in their minds, the riffs of jazz, the heart-break of  ballads or hard hits of heavy metal.  Symphonies might do, but no opera.  Permissions rights people are slow, difficult, expensive, and even incomprehensible.

This is a recent exchange of emails, through my permissions person, four months after first requesting permission to use two lines from a Smokey Robinson classic.

Thank you for your email dated August 2, 2010.
As your deadline has approached (we had offered a tentative publication date of June), the author will need to remove the lyrics from “Tears Of A Clown” from the publication as approval has not been granted.

But the question remains; will permission be granted later?   Should we wait and hope, or was this a permanent clear-cut denial?  The reply to this question was:

Thank you for your email dated August 3, 2010.

 The request has not been denied regardless, however I can not guarantee any sort of a time for a response to arrive.

This is the lyrical world of permissions we live in.   Did you know that when you write a book, you must program half a year’s delay to your publication, if you need permissions?  Let this be a warning.

Other Opinions on Self-publishing:

David Carnoy’s article: Self-Publishing a book – 25 things you need to know & a recent article in Newsweek titled:
Self-Publishing: Who Needs a Publisher Anymore?
It reports: “According to a recent Bowker report, the market for ‘nontraditional books’ in the United States grew by more than 750,000 in 2009 – a 181 increase over 2008.  Five of the 100 top bestsellers n the Kindle store – which now produces more sales than Amazon’s hardcover list – are currently self-published.”

The Real Argument Against Self-Publishing (sort of)

Why you really shouldn’t self-publish:

It is a full-time job.

CreateSpace produces the book  (…  Love Like a Dog), but I have to build a marketing plan.  Sure, I’ve pruchased the press-release packet they provide.   But no book comes into the world kicking and crowing because of a press release.

Marketing starts with: what is your “target goal?”  Mine is to get my book read by pit bull owners and rescue shelters.  It’s a novel about a pit bull rescue that changes a family.

Know your motive:  I came to write it because, years ago, I started volunteering at C.A.R.E., an animal shelter in Evanston, Illinois.  There I discovered pit bulls.  This led me to
D.A.W.G’s court advocacy program, where I followed a core of ardent volunteers who track animal abuse and dog fighting cases.  I interviewed police officers working Chicago’s Animal Care & Control (then headed by Sgt. Steve
Brownstein), following them on raids of suspected dog fighting rings.  This is how I became obsessed with telling a story about the ends to which humans will go against, and for, this misunderstood

First Mistake: My tag line is: “This is a novel about a boy, his single dad and the pit bull they rescue.”  In describing the upcoming book to my doctor I use this line and he says: “I’ll give it to my eight-year old daughter.”  OMG!  It has dog births and human sex and violence!

Much Research: I buy and read every dog magazine I can find.  I clip and copy names of dog networking sites and writers who write about the bully breeds, and record the addresses of professors who teach texts in which animals are the subjects in Animal Studies programs and departments.  Two favorite students help me for low wages.  We troll the Internet for advocacy sites.  We email, seeking URL links, and offer future copies of the book as donations.  Getting any reply back is super good luck.   I am glued to the computer from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.  And I’m not writing.  Fiction, I mean.  I’m emailing, list-making, letter-writing, and phoning contacts.  I have done this for four months straight.  First between classes.  Now that it’s summer, I’m a full-time publicist.

Though I am grateful for every single person who replies (each actually a huge gift, an important connection to these misunderstood dogs), I feel self-indulgently sorry for myself for not being able to write.  When you self-identify as a writer and have been alone for so many years, dependent on the habit of solitude, that meditation practice of sorts which is writing, it is hard to dislodge yourself from seeking that “signal” instead of scurrying about in the ‘noise.”  I feel thin (not physically unfortunately), but mentally.   It feels lonely to talk/write/email to a lot of people you don’t really know, day after day.  This is my writerly defect.   Salesmen have a gift for talking to people that I lack.

Event Planning: Also known as Experiential Marketing.  Also known as Getting the Word out.  Being There.

We have decided that if art is political, then it’s gestures matter.  So we, my student and I and husband and son and a friend, and a talented film maker are going to film the stories of people who have rescued dogs, especially pit bulls.  If Love Like a Dog’s rescue story has relevance it is because it is shared by the greater world.  Yes!  Unite!  Join!   This way, the chorus of voices will grow a bigger song, better, broader, and more complex and shared and fun.

Just that getting this organized involves:

Finding the film-maker

Setting up a “call for rescue stories ” email address

Creating flyers for vets offices and pet supply stores

Lining up interviews (an average or 3-6 calls/emails per story, a bunch of which fall through when the person finds out they have to go somewhere to be filmed)

Selecting a date & site (and an alternate date/site

Reminder calls

Objects to bring to the event: (which we hold outside the entrance to Montrose Beach Harbor)


(Ugly old) folding Table

Tablecloth (elegant disguise)

Large scotch tape dispenser to attach flyers of the book & story sharing to the tablecloth

(Promotion! Visibility!)

Books (one donated to each rescue story-teller)

Easel; (to display a book upright)

Plexiglass Flyer holder: (why do they cost so much– $8 minimum!!!)

Rope Tugs with little tag: (to give away; note it took hours to prep these)

(the tag says: Let a Dog Tug @ your heart

Nothing says Love like a dog.

Share your story at:


Dog treats (to entice stray dog owners & help dogs stay still 7 concentrated)

Icebox & ice: (it’s July in the Midwest; water & root beer & some goodies)

People food & blanket to sit on:

(Chips & salsa & more, because it’s my student’s birthday)

Raffle Box: (for dog owners with a spirit-of- gambling

Folding Chairs: (so the interview subject can sit down & help their dog sit, too)

Film-Equipment: (provided by the film-maker)

What Happens:
On the day of filming, none one of the ten people scheduled shows up.  It’s well, almost exactly like the publication ratio of  to non-fiction (one book of fiction is published for every ten books of non-fiction, if you remember).  One person calls to re-schedule.

Another lonely moment.

What You can’t Plan On: But, but, but because Thomas Wolfe is right and magic is always ready to happen, we start talking to any stranger with a dog, asking for their stories, and these people leaving the beach with their wet, tired, happy dogs, say, “Sure I’ll talk!  And we get seven interviews in the next couple of hours.    Carpe Diem!  Oh we seized the day.

Favorite Create Space Feature

CreateSpace has a menu bar with the link: Contact Support.
Hit it and you get: Request for Member Support.
Then this text:

Talk to us!
We’ll call you.  Right now.  Really.

Below which is a button:
Call me.

You type in your phone number and they call you right away.

Because I have lived a long life with its attendant struggles I am not used to such expediency and politeness.  I don’t have to press “1” or “3” or give a secret code number and wait 10 minutes before speaking to someone.  I can hardly believe it each time.

I have phoned about my proofs, how to navigate their site and understand their stages of production, how royalties work, the time frame for the press releases, the process of expanded distribution to bookstores. Usually, I’m given a pleasant but firm prognosis of a certain number of weeks a particular task completion.   And every single time, they have not only met, but anticipated their deadline.  Maybe I’m lucky.


Guess what? I’m in love. With CreateSpace.

I can’t swear to this but I think the CreateSpace big-wigs studied the Apple store model. Have you ever noticed how many people crowd each and every Apple store? It’s like a festival in there. But what is the big turn-on? Incredible staff support. Personalized staff support. When things go all monolithic, the deep-seated hunger we have to feel loved and cared for comes raging into full focus. Monolithic = alientation. But if a big organization hires a large service staff, and someone approaches you the minute you enter the door or the portal or whatever, you forget the size of the enterprise. You, the individual, are being listened to one on-one by someone whose entire mission is to grant your wish. Disneyland! Cinderella’s fairy-godmother is alive! This is great! One-on-one connection is big niche self-publishing is filling. They say: have a can-do attitude.